Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – Going to the dogs

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (C) is seen here in 2008 with his grandson Parker and his son Craig greeting a dog at a campaign stop in Bluffton, South Carolina in this file photo (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst). AT LEFT: U.S. President Barack Obama bends down to pet his dog, Bo, outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington March 15, 2012 (REUTERS/Larry Downing).

U.S. President Barack Obama bends down to pet his dog, Bo, outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington March 15, 2012.   It’s now official: The presidential campaign is going to the dogs. And like a lot of things this election year, it’s doing so via Twitter.

For months, aides to Republican Mitt Romney have tried to live down the much-publicized tale of the Romney family’s trip to Canada in 1983, when Romney transported the family dog, Seamus, in a crate that was strapped to the top of the car. The episode, in which the dog lost control of his bowels, has been lampooned by Democrats who have portrayed Romney as an uncaring former corporate executive.

David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Democratic President Barack Obama, used Twitter to post a photo of his boss and the Obama family dog, riding inside the presidential limousine.

“How loving owners transport their dogs,” Axelrod wrote.

Late Tuesday the Republicans struck back on the dog front – and did so in a way that reflected how the Romney and Obama campaigns are using Twitter, often several times a day, to throw verbal darts at each other.

Washington Extra – Pump It Up

If you had to pick a name for a deli sandwich in honor of Washington, D.C., there’s one clear choice: “The Ruckus.” In the city’s super-charged atmosphere, politicians, lobbyists and hired aides can barely let anything go by without a fight. 

Today it was rising gasoline prices that have Republicans and Democrats at each other’s throats. Both parties realize they really cannot do very much about retail prices, but they’re scrambling in hopes that voters don’t blame them for a pocketbook issue in an election year.

“Every time prices go up, there’s some sort of ruckus,”  Marc Spitzer, an-ex energy regulator appointed by former President George W. Bush, told Reuters.

Washington Extra – The Romney Doctrine?

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign stop in Warwick, Rhode Island April 11, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

When it comes to U.S. presidents and foreign policy, it’s always been a matter of what they do during crises, rather than what they say on the campaign trail.

Running for president in 2000, George W. Bush campaigned against “nation building.” But the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, changed everything, and Bush wound up launching an invasion of Iraq that led to a decade-long war and redefined U.S. foreign policy.

Washington Extra – Tea Party poopers

A man holds a sign during a March 24 Tea Party Patriots rally in Washington calling for the repeal of the 2010 healthare law. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

All that Tea Party support in 2010 for the 87 House Republican freshmen seems to have come with a price — and now it’s time to collect.

Representative Michael Grimm found his office filled with activists wanting to know why he hadn’t done more to slash government spending and why he had voted to raise the U.S. debt limit. He too is frustrated, the former Marine told them, but you just can’t shut down government and stop paying the soldiers.

Washington Extra: Sayonara Santorum

Former presidential candidate and Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is featured on a button by a supporter who also wore the politician's trademark vest in this January 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Jason Reed

It began and ended at a kitchen table in Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum’s improbable and surprisingly long run for the White House is over. But the Republican Party will feel the effects of this game-changing gambit cooked up in a kitchen for some time to come.

Santorum offered disgruntled voters true conservative credentials. He brought social issues and religious freedom to the forefront of the national debate. He made Mitt Romney work much harder for the nomination than expected, and lurch to the right in the process. His supporters may not go away quietly or fall behind Romney in lockstep.

Washington Extra – Turkey talks

The good news? Thanksgiving will not be interrupted by eleventh-hour negotiations by the “super committee” to strike a deal to cut the burgeoning deficit. After months of work, the 11 men and one woman called it quits today. Their statement said “it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement.” No mention of the word on everyone’s tongues: failure.

Even in the early days of the super committee, we are learning, hope was in short supply. At one of the early breakfast meetings, members kept saying how hard it would be to reach agreement. South Carolina’s  Democratic Representative James Clyburn said to his fellow panel members: “Do you want to know what’s hard? Desegregating South Carolina in the 1950s. I met my wife in jail.”

Right now, it’s hard to believe this Congress “can build on this committee’s work,” as the committee co-chairs said hopefully in their statement. There seems to be little faith left on the Hill. Just look at the harsh words from Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, who said the panel’s failure “represents yet another regrettable milestone in Congress’s steady march toward abject ineffectiveness.”

Washington Extra – Patriotic millionaires

As Democrats and Republicans hunkered down on opposite sides of the Capitol on Wednesday, showing no signs of a compromise on slashing the deficit, a group called the Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength made its move.

Nearly 140 members wrote a letter to President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to “do the right thing” and “raise our taxes.” Next they hit up the bipartisan “super committee,” laboring under a Nov. 23 deadline to reach agreement on the deficit or trigger unpalatable budget cuts.

One of the corporate patriots said if Congress ended Bush-era tax cuts it would affect him and his fellow millionaires in his group “about as much as a dead fly interrupts a picnic.”

Washington Extra – Beware of frank

When officials in Washington describe talks as “frank,” the usual translation is: “didn’t go my way.”

President Barack Obama emerged from a meeting with congressional leaders on the deficit and proclaimed: “People were frank.”

Uh-oh. Doesn’t sound like the president’s persuasive personality prevailed.

Washington Extra – Tweet tweet

President Barack Obama’s Twitter Townhall would have been more interesting if he had answered tweet for tweet.

Instead it looked a lot like an old-fashioned interview except the questions came over the transom on Twitter.

Of the tens of thousands of questions posed at #AskObama the ones chosen allowed the president to chew over long-standing talking points but offered little new insight. It might have been worth asking at least one fun question off the well-trodden policy path.

Washington Extra – Comfort zones

Senators are talking. The president is talking. But whether they are talking at or with each other is another question.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled a Libya resolution so that senators could focus on debt issues this week, which after all was the reason why they cancelled recess.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell invited President Barack Obama to Capitol Hill to hear why a debt deal with tax increases won’t fly. And then he accepted an invitation from Obama to meet at the White House on Thursday with other congressional leaders.